An Inspector Kari Vaara Mystery by James Thompson
Review: Inspector Kari Vaara, assigned to a new station in Helsinki and partnered with a new detective, is given an open-and-shut murder investigation that turns out to be anything but in Lucifer's Tears, the second mystery in this series by James Thompson.
A young woman, the wife of a prominent building contractor, has been found brutally tortured and murdered in the bedroom of her lover, who claims he was attacked as well, awakening to find her dead. But a few inconsistencies in the crime scene — including finding a riding whip used on the victim, but not the taser — suggest it was staged. Too, the dead woman's husband seems strangely — and suspiciously — dispassionate, knowing he might be a suspect but confident he won't be brought in for questioning. Separately, Vaara is asked to look into the background of a national hero, a man who may have been involved in executing prisoners in Finland's POW camps during World War II.
Lucifer's Tears is a superb mystery, a complex novel that interweaves multiple storylines. It is so cleanly and crisply written, however, that the narrative readily flows, making this a very difficult book to put down. The murder mystery itself isn't too difficult to sort out, given that it uses a common plot device, and it's a little frustrating that Vaara doesn't figure it out much sooner. Still, he's easily forgiven as there is much to occupy his time: his pregnant wife's due date is fast approaching, her somewhat dysfunctional siblings are visiting, his new partner seems obsessed with illegally modified weaponry, his investigation into his country's wartime past suggests troubling new information about his beloved grandfather role in the military, and he's plagued by blinding headaches. If this sounds like a lot to pack into a novel, it is … but it's done so well that it's only in retrospect that one realizes how much material is covered during Vaara's murder investigation.
Possibly the only negative aspect to Lucifer's Tears is the protracted journey into Finland's recent history, specifically as it relates to the country's participation in World War II. It's interesting, to be sure, and directly relevant to several plot points, but it is far too detailed and goes on far too long. As Vaara himself puts it, "I'm tired, too, and melancholic, worn down by so much ugliness. Compared to relearning the history of my country in this new light, even the Filippov murder seems cheerful."
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided an ARC of Lucifer's Tears for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Putnam (Hardcover), March 2013
ISBN-13: 9780399158889; ISBN-10: 039915888X
Location(s) referenced in Lucifer's Tears: Helsinki, Finland
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Lucifer's Tears by James Thompson — An Inspector Kari Vaara Mystery
Publication Date: March 2011
List Price: $24.95